Pines to Palms | Road Trip Guide
I don't know what it is about being in a car for 8 hours a day that gets me so excited, but I keep voluntarily designing and producing epic road trips around this beautiful country. Four years ago it started small with the California coast and my best friend, Morgan. Two years ago Ben and I jumped in head first and accomplished a cross country trip in a small four-door Cadillac, with four people and enough luggage to fill... well, a much larger car. Last year, Ben and I got super localized with it and just explored cities and their surrounding areas. It's only March and we've already accomplished our biggest trip of the year.
We started in Portland, Oregon.
We ended in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ben and I flew to Portland and immediately met Mike and went to Pine State Biscuits. It's a guilty pleasure. Like we literally landed, got our bags, picked out our boat of a car, and drove to Pine State. After a quick stop at Schoolhouse Electric (*swoon*) we checked into the Ace Hotel and prepared to meet friends for an arranged coffee date. We invite friends, old + new, and bought everyone a round of Stumptown, on us. After we bonded and shared our stories, we made a quick trip to visit Emily Katz and her amazing macrame studio (*hint* keep an eye out for her book release, you wont want to miss it!) which held the most beautiful light. As the sun set, we made the most sound decision after a day of traveling and shmoozing... ramen. And, lucky for us, Boxer Ramen is right across the street from the Ace. So like grown adults, we ate our weight in ramen noodles and made plans for the next morning. The Mandagies (that badass duo... check out their content if you haven't yet. It's poignant, hilarious and practical. Love them and their work!) had to leave to venture back to Washington, but Charlotte was up for an early morning adventure.
We woke up damn early. We loaded the car with everything we could and left the rest with the front desk. We grabbed Charlotte from her lonely parked car in a sleepy parking lot. The morning drive was quiet and I think everyone was upset that our google search for coffee showed no cafes opening for hours. We finally drove up to the coast and the rain wasn't stopping. We searched for coffee again and learned the magic of drive up coffee stands. We found one close by and the solo barista made a mean dirty chai. It was the boost we all needed and we turned the car back around and headed to the dreary beach. We explored the damn sandy shoreline and I met a wonderful couple, Darci + Kyle, that had previously agreed to let me practice with them. We created magic amongst the rain. After our session, we gathered back into our car and drove another few miles up the road the a spot rarely explored. The tourist lure of Cannon Beach keeps people away from Hug Point, but it's always been a favorite spot of mine. We explored the caves and waterfalls that adorn the coast and began our drive back towards Portland. We stopped to venture through the ferns that lined our drive, and returned Charlotte to her car, which had now made some friends in the parking lot.
The drive to Cannon Beach is surprisingly long. Our return leg was easier, since we had finally been caffeinated. We stopped in Portland only long enough to collect our belongings from the front desk and minimize our growing car load of coolers and luggage. We drove as quickly as we could to Toketee Falls, wanting to outrun the low winter sun. We made it in plenty of time, allow Ben the opportunity to brave the ropes course down to the bottom of the waterfall. I'm perpetually dressed for the wrong weather so I stayed above with my less-than-adequate boots and watched as he made his way towards the roaring falls. Before we knew it, the sun was setting and we knew we needed to find a gas station in the middle of no where. With our spotty GPS, we ended up 30 miles out of the way but with a full tank of gas which got us safely to our hotel, Union Creek Resort. We were assigned to Cabin 22, which after some research, we discovered was built in 1935 and previously belonged to the Timber Management Assistant of the U.S. Forest Service. It was cute and cozy and we had just stoked up on snacks at the local market. However, Ben would not recommend the chocolate pie at the diner across the street from the hotel.
Just like every morning, we woke up early enough to beat the sun. Today's morning destination was our first National Park of the trip. We entered Crater Lake with high hopes and quickly noticed the rising snow levels. The sky was its typical grey self, but we weren't expecting the lack of sight it produced when we got to the only "open" look out point. Not only was the cloud wall an impenetrable sight, but we found ourselves at 6,000ft. So I was damn cold. Cold enough to run outside for a photo and then hop back into the car and activate its seat warmers. I found the snack pile we purchased the day before and took some time without wifi to enjoy my surroundings from the inside of the car. The pine trees were tall and proud, even in the hazy winter morning. The snow was heavy on their branches and some spots had snow banks that easily went over my head. We drove away from the park pulled off the side of the road when the visibility improved. It was a fun moment in the snowy terrain, without the frozen chill from 6,000ft above. After we got our winter fill, we headed directly for the Oregon coast. It was a couple hours to our location but we all knew Samuel Boardman State Park was going to be worth the drive. That certainly was the case. We pulled up to the exact spot I found online (Natural Bridges) and grabbed our cameras and some rain gear. My cameras were better protected than me. So... this area is one I have to urge everyone to ➝ NOT MISS ← .. It's a decent drive from Portland, located at the southwest corner of the state, but it's a real gem. Be careful, especially on slippery days like the one we visited on, but you can explore the whole area and find some really stunning and unique perspectives and the naturally beautiful landscape. 10/10 would recommend this stop to everyone!
Redwoods! We stayed the night before in a hotel just north of the Redwoods and had a hotel booked for the upcoming night at a hotel just south of the park. This gave us all day to drive in and out one of the largest and most beautifully vast park systems I've ever been to. We stopped at different service stations along our route and collected the different stamps from each one. Our first stop was the Jedediah Smith Grove. Why? Well because they filmed Star Wars there, duh. We spent all day running amongst the giants. We drove for hours and stopped every time our hearts urged us to. We found a seaside diner, The Chart Room, and had lunch amongst the sea lions and seals. We continued on our path, with very little intentions. The road brought us to the beach with redwoods kissing the coast, it brought is to a misty sun lit trail that made my eyes melt, the oldest historic NP visitor center and it even brought us to Avenue of The Giants. (*hint* always take the scenic alternative route) ... And then we did our favorite thing and most terrifying travel decision. We drove with no direction and no plan. We didn't know where the road would take us for sunset, we just drove and listened to the music and watched the waves crash on the jagged shore alongside us. Finally, I had enough cell service and the passenger seat. I found the closet marked park on the shore and routed our course. We weren't sure what we'd find at Patrick's Point but it certainly did not disappoint. Giant rocks decorated the coast and the waves crashed against them with force and unstoppable power. We were in awe when we found this secret little gem on the coast. We played amongst the rocks for what seemed like hours. As we hiked around the Oregon hills, waiting for the sun to say it's daily farewell, we found ourselves stuck in the middle of a freak hail storm. We covered our gear as best as we could, and these out of shape goobers had to run uphill, cameras in hand + under shirt, combating giant chunks of ice hitting our faces. We made it into the car and didn't even stop to evaluate. We jumped into our seats and breathed a heavy sigh as the hail, of course, began to subside just as we made it into the car and missed the final moments of the sunset. But we didn't worry... we survived a hail storm and found Patrick's Point, all in a couple hours. Total success.
This day held only two planned event for the day. Drive 8 hours to San Francisco to see sunset at Mount Tamalpias. And eat some In-N-Out. We succeeded on both our missions.
We made it to Mount Tam pretty early and were able to scope out the location. It looked way different than the last time we were there. In fact, for the first time on our road trip, we had a very sunny getting and a bright clear sunset. No fog in San Francisco that day. So odd! The weather was on it's own schedule. Betsey met me here, to create some photo magic together. We were going to try and shoot her and her fiance on the mountain top but he sadly was stuck at work. So I grabbed the blanket from Schoolhouse and the beautiful hat Teresa Foglia leant us. Betsey embraced the cold breeze and we had a great time capturing the sunset from the bay area. Sam Graves and John Thatcher also braved the oddly cold California evening and ventured with us through the hill of Mount Tam. We repaid their cold souls by warming them up with much needed In-N-Out.
I had a sunrise engagement session planned for Sutro Baths this morning. Again, the weather was unpredictable and unlike the muted and foggy morning I had planned for, we had a warm sunrise. Rena + Felipe met me at the sun rose and we enjoyed balancing on the remaining bones of the old bathhouse. Once the session ended, my travel partners and I stopped at a diner from some much needed comfort food in the form of waffles and breakfast sandwiches. Next was our adventure along the coast, through Big Sur. We stopped in Davenport to pay our respects to the super beautiful Shark Fin Cove. I love this quiet little spot. We continued on and made it into Monterey in plenty of time, so we dropped our bags at our hotel and headed for an unbeatable route. First up was McWay Falls. A classic sight. Typically I would always advise to play by the rules, pay for parking and walk down to the falls. But this place gets so packed and typically the parking is completely full anyway. If you see people parking alongside the road, they know what they're doing - follow their lead! After we viewed the falls, we continued to one of my favorite spots from the whole trip.. Pfeiffer State Beach! This naturally made beauty was exactly how I wanted to end our day. The beach was littered with photographers and tripods. Everyone was courteous, would snap their shots and move to a new location for a new angle, continuously moving out of someone else's way. The water crashed through the keyhole in the rock and as the mist rose in the air, it caught light from the setting sun and turned the whole beach gold. It was truly gorgeous. And our last time was a quick scouting trip at Bixby Bridge, after the sun had set and turned the sky dark. We finished off the day with a classic seafood dinner on the pier. In other words, I had a salad and finished it off with a sundae from Ghirardelli.
The day begun for me at Bixby Bridge, shooting an engagement session with a couple and their super cute corgi pup. Ben slept in the car. Mike convinced us to get up super early and take some night shots while we waiting for the sun to rise. We shot from Old Coast Road, an area usually intimidating to tourists, as it's protected by a sign that says local traffic only. So if you decide to make this a pull-off, do the right thing and see the thing through. Old Coast Road connects you back to US 1 and shows you a first hand look at what our old highway systems used to look like. It winds through the hills, with views of the water and shade from redwoods. It's another truly magical gem!
After our morning shoot, it was off to Santa Barbara. Before we knew it, we were on the last leg of our major route. We drove inland, and watched the rolling hills pass us in an never ending golden blur. We stopped at our third National Park, the newest member to the club. Pinnacles National Park is the eroded remains of an extinct volcano. The area is rich with wildlife, especially raptors. In 1908, Teddy Roosevelt made the area a National Monument. In 2013, Obama made it. However, the most important stop of the day had to be The Madonna Inn. Yes we stopped for photos, yes we stopped for lunch. But mainly, we stopped for that damn champagne cake. I do not lie when I say I had been looking forward to that cake the entire time. And yes, it was worth it. We snuck into the amazing tennis courts, after we paid our dues and tipped our waitress. We took photos and enjoy the last moment together on the road. We finished this half of the trip in Santa Barbara, playing arcade games and eating pizza, and preparing for the adventure that awaited us at Yeah Field Trip the next morning.
Day 08 - 12
Yeah, field trip! What can I say about this place? This gathering of souls. It was the "final year" for this reunion of tears and educational goodness. We danced, we partied, we learned so much, and I'm forever grateful for the doors that YFT has opened for me. We brought Hopscotch The Globe this year, and it was the most amazing thing (I think) we've ever done. They brought their airstream all the way to El Capitan Canyon and posted it up in the dead center of the party. It became a meeting spot, a hangout, a lounge area, for creatives passing by and anyone interested in living tiny. We even hosted happy hour one night and brought out my dearest Rachel as our craft cocktail artist. She worked with Kristen and Sia of Hopscotch and created cocktails and flavors based off their travels. I love with how it turned out! I also sponsored Kat Borchart's incredible hands on fashion class and all the images I love from my weekend are from her class. She's always inspiring and continuously brings out the best in me. So proud of her, the class we produced, and the team that helped create this incredible class.
Day 13 - 14
Exhausted and full of love, I left Field Trip for a solo drive to Los Angeles. About half an hour into the drive I realized I left my jacked on the picnic table back at Field Trip. I stopped for gas and confirmed my suspicions. I turned around. I drove back to Yeah Field Trip. I found my jacket and begun my drive to LA all over again. I got there an immediately went to see Sonja at The Unique Space. It's always great catching up with that superstar and seeing how she's conquering the world. We're working on a photo project that will be hitting the east and west coast soon! Keep an eye out! From there, I grabbed Ben and we continued on towards the worlds best vacation spot (when it's not the dead heat of summer)... Palm Springs. I fucking love this place. We checked into The Ace Swim Club and immediately went and sat by the pool. We ordered drinks and relaxed amongst the fading day light. If it wasn't 117 degrees there in June, I would consider having a small house in Palm Springs. But that will have to wait until I'm rich enough to have a summer home. Best believe it will be amongst the classiest of hipsters in PS!
We woke up early the next morning and were the first ones requesting to dine by the pool. We picked seats with direct sunlight hitting them and relaxed for at least an hour, as we drank fresh juice (we all know Ben drank sweet tea) and had my favorite breakfast meal in all the state. I could sit next to the pool at the Ace Swim Club, sip a smoothie, and never pass a single care about what the rest of the world was doing. BUT we had plans this day. In fact, our plans were pretty cool. We were heading towards Las Vegas but stopping at a field of lava tubes. I screenshot our directions in case we lost service, and we headed into the desert. Our intended destination required parking in the middle of the Mojave, hiking towards these lava tubes, finding a staircase in the middle of the desert making our way through the tubes to see beautiful beams of light breaking the ceiling above is. It was going to be a picturesque moment. We started our drive and randomly came across the flattest stretch of land I've ever come across. We stopped and discovered we happened upon a salt flat in the middle of no where. We pulled over and snapped some shots of the vacant distance. But then we noticed some grey skies rolling in and my nerves were set on fire. Not only did we we need perfectly clear skies and directional light to see the sun beams in the lava tubes, but I'm not sure where exactly we are and I have a feeling that if lava was flowing in a certain direction, a flash flood would probably follow suit. The way to Vegas had us driving this course no matter what so we continued on our way. The skies darkened and we lost cell service. Before we knew it, we found ourselves, yet again, stuck in a completely unexpected hail storm. The car was being pelted from above and I could see the beads of ice begin to gather on the windshield and along the ground in front of us. We kept driving. Soon the hail turned into snow and the GPS was telling us to turn down this long dirt path to continue our route to the lava tubes. Obviously the lava tubes weren't happening, but we followed the road for a bit anyway and found ourselves perfectly lost in a surreal snow-globe. Here we are, in the middle of the Mojave desert in March, and it's snowing all around us. We parked the car and hopped out into the absolutely freezing environment. We ran around and took photos of the Joshua Trees dusted with snow, and some portraits of us in such a memorable location. We hustled back out of the desert, trying to avoid anymore bizarre weather. We stopped at the most iconic gas station and watched the dark storm clouds swiftly roll past. We finished our driving by pulling into Las Vegas, only about an hour later. Vegas had clear skies and warmer weather, though just a few miles out, we found ourselves in white-out conditions, driving along the truly unique white plains of the Mojave Desert.
Day 15 - 16
I crashed. I slept a lot and finally started importing images. We tried to make a sunset photoshoot happen but the Vegas traffic beat the speed of the setting sun. Instead, we rose with the daylight the next morning and had Seven Magic Mountains all to ourselves. It was the first quiet and relaxing trip I've had to Vegas, considering I wasn't participating in the ongoing tradeshow. But, of course, my flight hope destroyed any good feelings I left the trip with. First from Vegas to NY, then diverted to Pittsburgh, then back to NY... now diverted to Detroit and stuck for the night. And, no surprise, incredibly delayed the next morning, even though we arrived at the airpirt at 5am.
It felt good to be home.
T H A N K S
(or just lurking the photos!)